In a study from Yale University, scientists found which risk factors are more likely to trigger a heart attack for men and women 55 years and younger.
They discovered big sex differences in risk factors associated with heart attacks and in the strength of associations among young adults.
The findings suggest the need for a sex-specific preventive strategy. For example, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and poverty had stronger links with heart attacks in women compared with men, they found.
While heart attacks are often linked to older adults, this study examined the link between a wide range of heart attack risk factors among younger adults.
The researchers used data from 2,264 heart attack patients and 2,264 people with no heart attacks.
They found that young men and women often have different risk factors.
Seven risk factors—including diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, current smoking, family history of heart attacks, low household income, and high cholesterol—were associated with a greater risk of heart attack in women.
The highest association was diabetes, followed by current smoking, depression, hypertension, low household income, and family history of AMI.
Among men, current smoking and family history of AMI were the leading risk factors.
The study found that seven risk factors, many potentially modifiable, collectively accounted for the majority of the total risk of heart attacks in young women (83.9%) and young men (85.1%).
Some of these factors—including hypertension, diabetes, depression, and poverty—have a larger impact on a young woman than they do on young men.
The team says raising awareness among physicians and young patients is the first step.
National initiatives, such as the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign, should be expanded to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease risk in young women.
Healthcare providers also need to identify effective strategies to improve the optimal delivery of evidence-based guidelines on preventing heart attacks.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about when an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks is too risky, and results showing daytime naps could help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The study was conducted by Yuan Lu et al and published in JAMA Network Open.
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